Monday, October 15, 2012

Where To Eat: A Brand New Happy Hour @ Yamashiro Lounge

The Eats: CalAsian cuisine

The Vibes: An animated lounge that simultaneously feels intimate and cozy

Good for: When you want a stunning view, live music, great cocktails and delicious Japanese-inspired appetizers

When-to-Go: Happy Hour is Monday-Thursday, 5-7pm

The $ Factor: Very Reasonable ($4-$6 per item), with $5 wines + Sapporo Draft, $6 specialty cocktails and $4/$6 small bites

The 4-1-1: Happy hour is only available in the lounge of the Yamashiro Estate, not in the dining room, the outdoor garden or anywhere else

I’ll Be Back…: For the Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice and the Asian Ribs!

When the invite to Yamashiro’s Happy Hour Launch Party landed in my inbox, a cry of delighted surprise escaped from me. I almost toppled out of my chair and I had to reread the words silently staring back at me from my computer screen. Whaaat?! Yamashiro was introducing a happy hour?! Say it wasn’t so!

In order to understand my shock, you first have to understand Yamashiro. In my humble opinion, this is one of the most ritzy, classy destinations in Los Angeles. Perched on a hill immediately above the Magic Castle with the glittering lights of Hollywood majestically sprawled out below, it’s welcomed an exclusive clientele since it opened in the 1910s, first as a private residence, then as a private club in the 1920s. It has decadently adorned rooms filled with authentic Japanese artifacts, a 600-year-old pagoda and one of the most incredible outdoor gardens, pictured below (read about its very unique history here). Hollywood big wigs, international business execs and everyone else who can afford $40 filet mignon have congregated here since it was converted into a restaurant three decades ago. 

Taking all of this into consideration, that’s why I was surprised to hear that it was launching a happy hour program. What would the price point be? How big would the portions be? Would it be worth it? All these questions plagued me as I drove up the windy road leading to the restaurant on launch party evening, impatiently wondering what would unfold before me.

To my delight, the happy hour appeared to be pretty solid. Eight "small bite" plates range between $4-$6 and are well-proportioned; a friend and I ordered six items and felt extremely full afterwards. Many of the dishes that are on the regular menu ended up on the happy hour menu as smaller versions, like the tender Asian Ribs and the Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice, pictured below.

My all-time favorite is the Kurobuta Carnitas, which has flavorful carnitas balancing on top of crispy rice. It’s the perfect reflection of the fusion of cultures right here in L.A.

I didn’t see the homemade chips on the menu, but Food & Beverage Director Brock Kleweno brought us out a basket and they are amazing. They come with two ketchup and ranch dipping sauces and are a great snack to munch on. Definitely ask for them!

There’s a wide range of $5-$6 beverages, including sangria, beers, wine and sake-tinis. Our waitress recommended I try one of the more popular drinks, the Pineapple Sake-tini (pictured below). My friend got the Mai tai. Both were fruity and rich in flavors. There’s also a very interesting sparkling cocktail from Tokyo, the JPop that’s pretty good.

At the end of it all, I wouldn’t miss a Happy Hour at Yamashiro for the world. And I mean that sincerely. It’s an irresistible deal, with the chance to experience the best of an L.A. landmark – the ambiance, the incredible view and spectacular CalAsian dishes – at a very, very low price. It’s like getting a Ferrari at the price of a Toyota. So the next time you’re looking for a great happy hour at a real deal in the Hollywood area, you know where to turn. See you here soon!

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